Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
I'll just start by saying, I feel a little bit of a sense of completion, being able to wrap up training camp. When we were in the last period Kyle Rudolph came over to me and shook my hand and said, congrats on completing your eighth training camp in this league, so that was sort of a moral victory there. Last night in the hotel tonight and then we get to move back home. It's been a good three and a half weeks and I'm looking forward to get to play again against Seattle. I thought the chance to go against someone else, as we talked about last week, is a big help for us in our preparation, our development and our process. That's a really important piece, almost more important than whether you play well or not, it's just about getting those new looks and learning from them. It should be a great opportunity, first game at home since last season, we're really excited and hoping to put on a great showing Sunday night.
Q: What are you looking for from the offensive line the next two weeks?
A: Nothing special, I just want us to play well as a unit. That involves running the football, protecting, and just handling all the different calls. It's a total package. Last week on that third down at the start of the game when we got rushed and I had to run, that wasn't an offensive line issue. That was just the back not understanding quite where the line was going and stepping up and getting that linebacker. Many times, protection is far more than just the O-line. It can be communication, it can be a call made by the quarterback, it can be the running backs and even the pass game, everything clicking so that the ball can get out of my hand quickly. I just want to see us run our operation well, avoid penalties is a big deal. In the preseason it always seems there is a lot of flags, and just trying to avoid those unnecessary ones, especially the pre-snap penalties, that's a big part of offensive line play early in the year.
Q: Can you get a sense of where the offensive line is at with most of the preseason defenses being so vanilla?
A: It's really hard to get a sense of where you are in any phase of the game, and that's not just offensive line play. I don't think you know a lot about your football team until you're two, three, four weeks into the season. Just because of the nature of it being so hard to simulate what real Sundays are like in practice and in preseason games. Although, preseason games are a better feel for the real thing. We've got to go out and play and prepare and work. You do everything you can, but you don't really know until you get into the year.
Q: Are you anticipating more designed runs, scrambling, and moving in the pocket this year?
A: I think it's more off schedule. I always felt like that's a missing element in my game. The ability to not only run for yards but run around and then make throws. I was talking with Fran Tarkenton this winter and Fran said, 'Kirk, I only ran a 4.90 40 [yard dash]. I wasn't fast, but I ran around to then be able to throw.' I play with rhythm and timing, so I'm not trying to play off schedule all the time, but I think I have the ability to run around a little bit and I think I have the arm to make those throws. So, it's just a matter of doing it. It's so important that it's instinctual. When the ball is snapped, you can't say on this play, 'I'm going to give up on my read and just run around.' It has to be when the play breaks down. That's the hard part, training your body and mind to do that, so it was good in the game to have that moment where it did break down, the protection was loose, and my instinct was to take off and run. The fact that it was man coverage is what made it a conversion, if it's zone coverage I probably get tackled and we punt. It has more to do with the defensive look combined with the run attempt than it does just the run attempt.
Q: Is there a way to hone those skills or is it just game feel?
A: It's really hard with a red jersey. That's why you say you don't really know a lot about yourself until you get into live bullets, because with a red jersey, we're going to argue back and forth all day long that, oh he was sacked and no I wasn't, and I would have slipped out of that and I spun away. That's kind of the ongoing banter between the offense and the defense all training camp long and OTAs. It's been hard to train, because you aren't really getting hit so you don't know when you can realistically escape pressure and when you have to say, hey I was sacked there, and I can't get away with that. You kind of just have to learn it in live bullets, and time will tell if I'm going to do that or not. Again, there are a lot of guys that are going to be in the Hall of Fame who didn't have that element to their game. You don't necessarily need it, I just think it's an added bonus. Our coaches have said, there's probably more there in your game than you have let on.
Q: Have you had a lot of conversations with Fran Tarkenton since coming to the Vikings?
A: We've had a couple phone conversations and then I did meet with him in person one time. Nothing extensive, it's not like I'm going to his house on Friday night and hanging out every weekend. He's just a wealth of knowledge and it's pretty unbelievable, his resume beyond football. What he's been able to do with his life. He's written books, he's had success on television, and probably more success in business than anything he's done. Just a life on influence and impact that certainly I would want to emulate, and so it's fun to get around him and to share so much in common, with the Vikings and playing quarterback is special.
Q: Has he told you stories about his time in the NFL?
A: Oh yeah, pretty much the whole deal. He was telling me stories from when he first got here after being drafted and showing up, all the way through to going to the Giants, to coming back. I asked about the Super Bowl and his experience through those. He's so sharp, for 79 years old, he's so sharp, a lot of energy, a lot of personality, so it was a great conversation.
Q: Any quarterback tips that he shared?
A: I think he's self-aware enough to know that the game has evolved, and it's not like he's been coaching football at the NFL level for the last 30 years. He does have an insight to it, and he knows, because he played. There is a bond there with people who have played. He did give some good insight as to what he sees. If anything, he was just an encourager. He just affirmed me and encouraged me and spoke belief into me, which can't hurt.
Q: Now that training camp has wrapped up, what do you know about this team and what can we expect in 2019?
A: I think we have a really good defense. I go along the roster and I just feel like every player is a guy who can play and has been battle tested in the league as well. I like our chemistry, our locker room, I think we have a great group of men, that's got to count for something. I love our system, I love what we're doing offensively, I think even our defense, and our defensive coaches going against us every day, would say that the system is a good system and is putting them in a bind and is challenging them, so that's a positive. I just like the continued rapport that I and we are building with one another with more time together, and you got to go play the games to see where that leads, but those are some positives.